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Remembering those lost to Homelessness

Written by admin on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Hate Crimes, Mortality, Violence Against the Homeless

For nearly three decades, advocates for people experiencing homelessness nationwide have taken one day out of the year to remember those who have passed due to the trauma of homelessness. Symbolically commemorated on December 21st, the winter solstice and longest night of the year, National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day serves as a reminder of the daily violence experienced by those who are without permanent housing.

Every year, we mourn those we have lost and bemoan persistent homelessness that does not seem to be getting better. DC memorialWe have lost so many of our neighbors due to violence perpetrated by those who see people experiencing homelessness as less than human, or the structural violence that exacerbates easily preventable disease or shortens life expectancy by 20-30 years. I remember my fellow AmeriCorps volunteer and colleague Jesse, whose heart gave out after only a handful of years off the streets. I remember Cliff, the talented photographer and vegetarian, conscripted to eating American cheese sandwiches in the shelter, even as his health failed due to cancer. These, and so many others, were our friends, our colleagues, our family members, who became victims of a lack of affordable housing.

The fact remains that a lack of housing is unhealthy, traumatizing and significantly shortens an individual’s life expectancy. People who experience homelessness have an average life expectancy of around 50 years of age, almost 20 years lower than housed populations. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that people experiencing homelessness are at a greater risk of infectious and chronic illness, poor mental health, and substance abuse

They are also more susceptible to violence once experiencing homelessness, a fact confirmed by over 20 years of reports on bias-motivated crimes against people experiencing homelessness showing 1,769 reported acts of violence against people experiencing homelessness, 476 of which were lethal.

In 2017, there were 22 cities that reported the number of people experience homelessness who lost their lives without a place to call home. Out of those cities that reported, 2,525 homeless community members passed away. Consulting reports about deaths of people experiencing homelessness in 2016, we estimate that at least 13,000 people pass away each year while without housing.

Homelessness is the most extreme expression of structural housing poverty. This form of extreme poverty hasn’t always existed at the levels we see today, and doesn’t have to be a permanent state in all of our communities. We need to invest in our shared humanity through investment in publicly affordable housing. We need to build healthier and more compassionate communities, that ensure all residents’ basic human needs are met. May this Memorial Day be a reminder to all of us that working together, we can build our housing infrastructure, and reinforce our safety net of food, cash, medical and housing assistance, so we don’t lose another brother and sister to the streets.

We invite all of you to register your Memorial Day events at https://nationalhomeless.org. If you are not able to host your own event, please participate in a nearby event to memorialize our fallen community members that passed away without the dignity to have a place to call home. Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day is co-sponsored by the National Health Care for the Homeless Council and the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Again we ask, Welfare to What?

Written by admin on . Posted in Advocacy, Policy Advocacy, Poverty

Twenty years after “ending welfare as we know it” with the passage of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, the current administration issued an Executive Order on April 10, 2018 to Reduce Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility.

While the Administration’s Order is more suggestion for Federal departments of government, the National Coalition for the Homeless [NCH] was strongly opposed to the 1996 law and is equally strongly opposed to the direction of the Executive Order, and any attempt to enforce work requirements on social benefits, including food assistance (SNAP) and Medicaid.

The reality is that the 1996 legislation and now the Executive Order goals language is code for reducing the welfare rolls even further by slicing benefits, imposing further work requirements and mandating further time limits on welfare programs.  It is clear that the direction of the Executive Order, and potential work requirements being considered for access to food assistance (SNAP) and Medicaid, is punitive and does nothing to promote self-sufficiency. At a time when our wages are not keeping up with the cost of living, the only direction of economic mobility for many will be downwards, in some cases leading to homelessness.

In 1998 NCH partnered with the Children’s Defense Fund to publish Welfare to What: Early Findings on Family Hardship and Well-BeingThe key findings include:

  • only a small fraction of welfare recipients’ new jobs pay above-poverty wages; most of the new jobs pay far below the poverty line;
  • many families who leave welfare are losing income and not finding steady jobs at all;
  • extreme poverty is growing more common for children, especially those in female-headed and working families;
  • many families leaving welfare report struggling to get food, shelter, or needed medical care; many are suffering even more hardships, including becoming homeless, than before;
  • many families are not getting the basic help they need [for example, child care, medical coverage, food or transportation] that might enable them to sustain work and care for their children on very low wages;
  • many families are denied cash assistance through little or no fault of their own; states often penalize families without assessing their ability to complete required activities.

Twenty years later, the 2018 Farm Bill with significant changes to SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or Food Stamps] proposed by House Agriculture Committee Chair Michael Conway is the testing ground for the broader direction of the 2018 Executive Order.

And, just as we said 20 years ago, the Center for Budget & Policy Priorities President Robert Greenstein said in April 2018 that the proposed changes in SNAP would “end or reduce benefits for a substantial number of low-income people… and would widen the nation’s economic divides.”

Clearly the current administrations goal is to “leave no billionaire behind” while punishing low-income people.  We ask the same question of the Executive Order as we did 20 years ago: Welfare to What?

NCH does not believe the current false rhetoric of economic mobility and expanding opportunity.  We know better.  We know that the real direction of work requirements as welfare reform is punitive and the results will be increased poverty and homelessness for children and families, disproportionately impacting people of color, especially African-Americans and Native Americans.

NCH stands ready to partner with local, state and national organizations to demand the real direction of any reforms to welfare results in living wage employment and truly affordable and accessible housing.

-Bob Erlenbusch, NCH Board President
Executive Director, Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness

 

Further reading:

Spring into Action

Written by admin on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Community Organizing, Criminalization

We have seen so many movements and actions since the 2016 elections – which means our communities want social and economic justice! We recently recorded a video of solidarity with the March for Our Lives and #NeverAgain campaign for gun reform. We are also partnering with the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival on public actions working to fight the root causes of homelessness.

Here is what you can do this Spring:

Our Homes, Our Voices

We hope that you will join us in taking part in the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s Our Homes Our Voices week of action, May 1-8, 2018. Learn more about the event, and how to get involved here.

Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

We also hope you will join us in joining the new Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. This is a ground up movement being led by faith leaders and people who are struggling with an economic and social system that only benefits the most wealthy among us. The campaign has just launched its list of demands, which outline
how the evils of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, and the war economy and militarism are persistent, pervasive, and perpetuated by a distorted moral narrative that must be challenged.
 The campaign states,
We must stop attention violence and see the human and economic costs of inequality. We believe that when decent people see the faces and facts that the Souls of Poor Folk Audit presents, they will be moved deeply in their conscience to change things. When confronted with the undeniable truth of unconscionable cruelty to our fellow human beings, we must join the ranks of those who are determined not to rest until justice and equality are a reality for all.
Mother’s Day, May 13th, will kick off 40 days of nonviolent action, and we encourage you and your network to join the campaign and take part in changing “not just the narrative, but who is narrating” our national political agenda.

Public Education

Finally, we know one of our biggest hurdles to housing all of our neighbors is public perception and prejudice against both people of color and poor people. To this end, we have created shareable documents that we encourage you to print and distribute: PUBLIC NOTICE for class action lawsuit - DHOL 2018
  1. A list of demands for the American Dispossessed: Created by Denver Homeless Out Loud in support of the Right to Rest and presented as a public notice, it is meant to be posted outdoors in places where our neighbors are forced to live in encampments or on public land. Click here to download

  2. State of Homelessness 2018: A brief (3 pages) overview of why we are seeing increased visible homelessness in our communities, covering everything from housing to HUD funding to criminalization. Click here to download

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